November 20, 2008
The Public Wants Wind and Solar Even Though Initial Costs are Higher
A poll conducted of over 20,000 people in 21 nations by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that the public strongly supports requiring businesses to be energy efficient and utilities to use alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, even if this increases the cost of energy and other products. There was far less support, roughly half the support for alternative energy, for use of nuclear power, coal, or oil as energy sources. In all nations most people reject the view that shifting to alternative energy sources would hurt the economy, believing instead that it would save money in the long run. Emphasizing increased costs in the short run has little impact on support because the public is optimistic that shifting to alternative energy sources will save money in the long run. A majority of the public in all nations, when presented two competing arguments about the cost of "making a major shift to alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar," takes the view that "with the rising costs of energy, it would save money in the long run." About 2/3 of the public takes this optimistic view. In no nation does a majority of the public believe that a major shift to alternative energy sources "would cost so much money that it would hurt the economy." The survey covered the US, China, India, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK as well as Indonesia, Nigeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, the Palestinian Territories, Poland, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
(Photo: Taylor Dundee)
"It is quite remarkable that there is such unanimity around the world that government should address the problem of energy by emphasizing alternative energy sources and greater efficiency," comments Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org. "Equally remarkable is how little the governments around the world are following the public's lead."
WPO also reports that the public strongly supports having government require "utilities to use more alternative energy, such as wind and solar, even if this increases the cost of energy in the short run." Even with the costs highlighted, majorities in all but two nations favor the idea, though the average level of support slips a bit to 69 percent.
The second most popular approach to the problem of energy is to put more emphasis on "modifying buildings to make them more energy efficient," and is favored by majorities in all nations. On average 74 percent favor this approach. Support ranges from 54 percent in India and the Palestinian Territories to 89 percent in Great Britain and France.
Respondents were also asked whether they favor the government "requiring businesses to use energy more efficiently, even if this might make some products more expensive." Highlighting the cost factor, as well as making the effort mandatory, means support is a bit lower--though, on average, a majority of 58 percent favors the idea.
Sixteen nations favor the idea, in 14 by majorities, led by Britain (79%) and South Korea (74%), along with very high support in Taiwan (80%), Hong Kong (71%), and Macau (71%).
The five nations that do not support the idea are all oil-producing countries. A majority is opposed in Azerbaijan (55%), as are pluralities in Russia (43%) and Indonesia (47%). Mexicans and Nigerians are divided.
Another possible energy conservation measure that would create costs for consumers receives more modest support. The idea of "having an extra charge for the purchase of models of appliances that are not energy-efficient" is supported by publics in 12 nations--in eight by majorities. However, it is also opposed in seven nations--in six by majorities. On average, 48 percent favor the idea while 39 percent oppose it.
Support for such a charge is highest in Kenya (74%), Italy (69%), Indonesia (61%) and France (60%). Majorities are also supportive in Taiwan (55%), Hong Kong (55%), and Macau (53%). The nations with a majority rejecting the idea include Thailand (64%), Argentina (62%), the Palestinian Territories (58%), Mexico (57%), Germany (54%) and the United States (52%).
Worldwide, individuals with higher income are more likely to support the measure than those with lower income.
An unpopular approach to dealing with the problem of energy is to put more emphasis on building nuclear energy power plants. Publics in only nine nations favor this idea (8 majorities, 1 plurality). On average just 40 percent favor doing so.
The most enthusiastic nations are China (63%), Jordan (58%), Kenya (57%) and Nigeria (56%). Jordan and Nigeria have each announced plans to build their first nuclear power plants. China, South Korea and Argentina all have significant nuclear power production now. Italy closed down its nuclear energy program in 1988--following a referendum held after the Chernobyl disaster--and is now debating a resumption of the program.
On the other hand, only four nations favor putting less emphasis on nuclear energy. These include a majority in Germany (63%) and pluralities in Mexico (50%), Ukraine (49%), and Indonesia (40%). A plurality in Macau (44%) also favors less emphasis.
Coal and Oil
The least popular approach to addressing the problem of energy is to put greater emphasis on "building coal or oil-fired plants." Only seven publics favor doing so and only five of these are majorities. On average, 40 percent favor this approach.
The countries most positive about increasing emphasis on coal or oil-fired power are Kenya (69%), Jordan (63%), Argentina (60%), Nigeria (56%) and Turkey (52%). In Indonesia, a 50 percent plurality favors greater emphasis, while 34% do not (less, 24%; same, 10%). In Thailand, a 41 percent plurality wants more emphasis (less, 19%; same 13%).
Nearly half favor a greater emphasis on oil and coal in the Palestinian Territories (46%), Mexico (46%), and Azerbaijan (45%). But in these cases an approximately equal or greater number favors less or the same emphasis.
At the same time there is little support for putting less emphasis on coal and oil. Germany is the only country where a majority (62%) prefers this approach. On average, just 31 percent favor less emphasis.
However, nearly half favor less emphasis in the US (49%), France (46%), and Italy (46%). In each case, approximately the same number favors more or the same level of emphasis.
The poll is a collaborative research project of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland with other universities throughout the world.
November 18, 2008
Bush Administration Land Mines the Interior Department, EPA, and Other Environmental Agencies
The Washington Post reports that the Solicitor of the Interior Department has shifted half a dozen key political appointees – including Robert Comer known for his opposition to the roadless rule and a questionable grazing agreement as well as Matthew McKeown, a mining industry darling – into senior civil service posts. These transfers, called "burrowing," allows political appointees to stay in the government and create obstacles to changing policy direction. Perhaps the practice should be called "land-mining," given its potential for derailing the peaceful transfer of power:
Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency. The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.
As the Washington Post goes on to report, the practice is not an invention of the Bush administration. However, there has seldom been so striking a change in public sentiment between the 2004 Bush re-election and the precipitous decline in public regard for Bush as manifest in the Obama "tsunami" -- and thus so much reason to jettison the flotsom and jetsom of the Bush years.
The practice of placing political appointees into permanent civil service posts before an administration ends is not new. In its last 12 months, the
administration approved 47 such moves, including seven at the senior executive level. Federal employees with civil service status receive job protections that make it very difficult for managers to remove them...In a report dated Oct. 13, 2004, Interior's inspector general singled out Comer in criticizing a grazing agreement that the Bureau of Land Management had struck with a Wyoming rancher, saying Comer used "pressure and intimidation" to produce the settlement and pushed it through "with total disregard for the concerns raised by career field personnel." McKeown -- who as
's deputy attorney general had sued to overturn a
administration rule barring road-building in certain national forests -- has been criticized by environmentalists for promoting the cause of private property owners over the public interest on issues such as grazing and logging....One career Interior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his position, said McKeown will "have a huge impact on a broad swath of the West" in his new position, advising the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service on "all the programs they implement." Comer, the official added, will help shape mining policy in his new assignment. "It is an attempt by the outgoing administration to limit as much as possible [the incoming administration's] ability to put its policy imprint on the Department of Interior," the official said...But environmental advocates, and some rank-and-file Interior officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of hurting their careers, said the reassignments represent the Bush administration's effort to leave a lasting imprint on environmental policy...."What's clear is they could have done this during the eight years they were in office. Why are they doing it now?" said Robert Irvin, senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group. "It's pretty obvious they're trying to leave in place some of their loyal foot soldiers in their efforts to reduce environmental protection."
November 18, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Law, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack
November 17, 2008
A Little Perspective
Here's an interesting poster of US economic history in the last century. Download economy-good-mag.jpg High national debt is not always bad as one can see from the late 1940s and 1950s. But look at the size of the current debt relative to GDP! US Economic History - Good Magazine
6th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law
The 6th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law was hugely successful thanks to the fine strategic and organizational efforts of Jose Juan Gonzalez, the conference organizer from Mexico City's Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM). US environmental law luminaries included: Dinah Shelton; Dick Ottinger, Ann Powers, and Nick Robinson of Pace University; David Hodas and John Dernbach (who I actually never saw-but I was told he was there) of Widener University; Jackie Hand of Seattle U; and Melissa Powers of Lewis & Clark. This was my first time going to the Colloquium because of its inconvenient fall timing...but it was more than worth it and I hope to go next year, when the Colloquium will gather in Huang, China, an industrial city towards the center of China not too far from the 3 Gorges Dam along the Yangtze River. The dates of the Colloquium are in early November, although the Academy's leadership is checking the dates of Ramaden to determine whether there is a conflict.
I'm back from Geneva and Mexico City
I've just returned from my last Fall semester junket. Actually both conferences were awesome experiences that I'll try to share in bits and pieces as the semester ends.
Oil prices increase modestly today
Crude-oil futures are climbing above $58 a barrel this morning based on the Federal Reserve's report that industrial output from US factories, mines and utilities increased in October, moderating September's sharp losses. Industrial production in October increased 1.3% recovering at least a third of the 3.7% loss in September, which remains the biggest decline in 60 years. September's losses were due in part to the fact that fierce hurricanes in the Gulf shut down oil drilling, oil refining and chemical production.